3:42 am - Tuesday April 16, 2024

Ukraine crisis: Renewed Kiev assault on protesters

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Police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev have launched a fresh attack on anti-government protesters as the death toll in renewed clashes has climbed to 25.

The new attempt to uproot the protest stronghold came as President Yanukovych blamed opposition leaders for the worst violence in months of unrest.

After failed overnight talks, he urged them to distance themselves from radical forces.

Activists say the violence has been stoked by the authorities.

Police launched their latest assault on Independence Square, also known as the Maidan, shortly after 04:00 local time (02:00 GMT). Several tents were set ablaze, and water cannon was later used.

A BBC correspondent said police had taken control of a corner of the square for the first time since December.

The protests began in late November, when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Tensions had begun to subside as recently as Monday, as protesters ended their occupation of government buildings in return for an amnesty against prosecution.

But violence erupted outside parliament on Tuesday morning as government supporters blocked opposition attempts to scale back the president’s constitutional powers.

The clashes spread to surrounding streets and police launched a first attack on Independence Square on Tuesday evening.

In a statement, the health ministry said on Wednesday the number of dead on both sides had risen to 25. Nine of those killed were police, the interior ministry says. A journalist has also died.

Hundreds of people have been treated in hospital for injuries and there are fears the number of deaths could rise still further.

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